Preparing for your appointmentBy Mayo Clinic staff
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in disorders of the brain and nervous system (neurologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment. For example, even though your primary complaint may be headache, your doctor will want to know about any changes you may have noticed in your vision, speech or coordination.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses and recent life changes.
- Make a list of your key medical information, including other conditions you're being treated for and the names of the medications that you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Prepare a list of questions so that you can make the most of your limited time with your doctor. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For Chiari malformation, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
- Other than the most likely cause, what are possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- Do I need treatment?
- If you don't think I need to be treated now, how will you monitor me for changes in my condition?
- If you recommend surgery, what should I expect from my recovery?
- What is the risk of complications from surgery?
- What is my long-term prognosis following surgery?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover seeing a specialist?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What Web sites do you recommend visiting?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous, or occasional?
- If you experience head and neck pain, is it made worse by sneezing, coughing or straining?
- How severe is your head and neck pain?
- Have you noticed any change in your coordination, including problems with balance or with hand coordination?
- Do your hands and feet feel numb or do they tingle?
- Have you developed any difficulty swallowing?
- Do you experience episodes of dizziness or faintiness? Have you ever passed out?
- Have you developed any problems with your eyes and ears, such as blurred vision or a ringing or buzzing in your ears?
- Have you had problems with bladder control?
- If your share a bed or bedroom with someone else, have they commented on changes in your breathing while you sleep?
- Have you been taking pain relievers or using other approaches to relieve your discomfort? Does anything seem to work?
- Do you have any additional symptoms, such as hearing loss, fatigue, or changes in your bowel habits or appetite?
- Have you been diagnosed with any other health conditions?
- Has anyone in your family been diagnosed with Chiari malformation?
What you can do in the meantime
To ease your discomfort while you wait to see your doctor, try taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others). Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) also may relieve mild to moderate pain.
- NINDS Chiari malformation information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chiari/chiari.htm. Accessed Sept. 23, 2010.
- Chiari malformation. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information/Conditions%20and%20Treatments/Chiari%20Malformation.aspx. Accessed Sept. 24, 2010.
- Syringomyelia. American Syringomyelia and Chiari Alliance Project. http://www.asap.org/index.php/disorders/syringomyelia/. Accessed Sept. 24, 2010.
- Developmental diseases of the nervous system. In: Ropper AH, et al. Adams and Victor's Principles of Neurology. 9th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=3637082. Accessed Sept. 24, 2010.